UAE’s openness is the key to its success, Sheikh Abdullah says

The Minister of Foreign Affairs said the UAE’s import and export of talent had led it to overcome regional challenges and achieve great developments.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the Government Summit in Dubai. Reem Mohammed / The National
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DUBAI // The UAE’s openness to the rest of the world and investment in education and knowledge has allowed it to reach its current level of success, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said on Tuesday.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs said the UAE’s import and export of talent had led it to overcome regional challenges and achieve great developments.

“When the UAE was established, about 50 per cent of men and only a third of women knew how to read and write,” he said during his speech, entitled #WeTheUAE, at the Government Summit. “But now, 90 per cent of them are highly educated and that has been the result of the educational system’s development.”

In addition to the more than 1,200 education establishments, the UAE has also focused on health care.

“You see institutions with the best equipment,” he said. “We have 2,200 state-of-the-art establishments that provide the best health care and focus on the human being, which is the most important resource.”

He showed a video of a young Emirati woman from Zayed University who travelled to Malawi to build houses and Cambodia to develop education and improve living conditions, to break the stereotype of Arabs and Muslims.

“This is the spirit of our people,” Sheikh Abdullah said. “No obstacle can impede us. We’re a very open people that sees, in challenges, opportunities to achieve more.”

He said none of these advances would have been possible without the central role of women.

“They are the main partner of men in the UAE’s advancement and will keep ensuring its future success,” he said. “In 1973, the first women’s association was established, headed by my mother, Sheikha Fatima, and since then, huge achievements were made in the UAE’s empowerment. Women were able to access all fields, so it wasn’t just a slogan.

It became a reality and that’s why we are very proud to say #WeAreTheUAE.”

Sheikh Abdullah said the decision to develop a modern country attracted global intellectuals, while other countries suffered from a brain drain.

“The UAE created a new concept,” he said. “The total population increased 30-fold and we will always be an open nation and a hub that attracts all skills and competencies.”

The UAE has diplomatic relations with 107 countries.

“The UAE’s foreign policy is based on positive attitudes and building bridges while the world today, in current circumstances, is going [the other way],” he said. “It reinforced our capacity to attract the best around the world.”

This openness has also allowed it to improve its economy by 236 times since the country’s creation.

“The UAE has now become a network and a hub for air and sea,” he said. “It’s the hub for more than 25 per cent of the 500 biggest multinationals worldwide and it’ll keep going forward because of huge projects with the government and the private sector in tourism, economy, transport and renewable energy.”

He said the country would still be investing in its youth and knowledge when the last oil barrel is gone.

“Oil today represents less than a third of the GDP, in a country which produces approximately three million barrels [a day],” Sheikh Abdullah said.

“It was the main source of income in the UAE’s first years but now 8.1 per cent of the GDP comes from tourism and 15 per cent from the industry.”

He said the country was ranked first at providing grants and support to countries worldwide. In the past two years, its foreign aid quadrupled.

“We are now the first supporting country for Egypt,” he added. “Stability of the Arab world is based on Egypt’s stability.”

The import and export of talent remained key.

“Today we are building for us, and all those living on our land, a present and a future and, God willing, it will always be built on stability and security,” he said.

“The UAE’s success story is one of every individual that treaded this land and we wouldn’t have reached it without our guests who came from around the world. We can’t live isolated and it is our duty as Arabs and Muslims to be open and help countries for the advancement of humanity.”